Last week, I received an email from Penguin Group’s publicity office, letting me know about “Penguin Classics On Air,” a new web radio show that’s part of Penguin’s new “Publisher’s Office” online network.
Besides being completely excited about receiving my first “official” LND email, I was intrigued by the premise – and by the fact that the first broadcast was titled, “Why We Love Jane Austen.” (You know I love me some Jane Austen.)
Each episode or broadcast is set up similarly: an editor or scholarly expert talks about or interviews someone related to the topic, then a publisher reads the first pages of the book or work in question. There’s also a segment called “Reading the Classics from A to Z” in which a Penguin Group director attempts to read one Penguin Classic by an author per letter from the entire alphabet.
The Jane Austen episode has fun, spritely music in the background that you can just imagine being played in Regency England, perhaps at a ball that Elizabeth might have attended. The bulk of the episode involved an interview with Austen scholar Juliette Wells, a professor of literature who uses Austen in most of her courses. She talks about Austen in the classroom and how the novels transcend time, infusing pop culture today. She also discusses life in Austen’s England and some of her favorite places in England to find Austen.
There are other episodes available, ranging from Russian and Jewish literature to Washington Irving and colonial New York. As the Publisher’s Office continues to grow and develop its content, more episodes will be added.
I first came across the Publisher’s Office a few weeks ago and was suitably impressed upon my first visit. But I have to say (and I’m definitely not getting anything in return for saying this) – the direct email to LND and the incredible amount of information on the site have won me over. I’m a Publisher’s Office convert now. It’s definitely worth checking out. Between the interviews, the videos and the radio series, there’s something for everyone.
[Photo Credit: Getty Images]
The latest in the crazy, quirky and just plain fun stories about books, from all around the world wide web:
- June 16th marked passing of Bloomsday, a celebration of James Joyce and his epic work, Ulysses, which takes place on June 16, 1904. Two intrepid fans decided to take things one step further and tweet about it. Ian Bogost and Ian McCarthy recreated Chapter 10, entirely out of 140 character tweets. Wonder what Joyce – who never met a run-on sentence he didn’t like – would think about this.
- It used to be that students would forgo reading the actual book for the study guide. Now, they don’t even have to do that. Apple’s iTunes app store has released a Cliff Notes app for the iPhone. It’s starting out with just five guides, but will surely grow in the coming months. It probably won’t help the tech-savvy cheating problem currently sweeping the nation’s schools.
- Je ne les aime pas, Sam C’est Moi! That’s the sound of classic Dr. Seuss in French. A California publisher and translator Anne-Laure Fournier le Ray have successfully managed to transform the Seuss-ical rhymes into French, without losing any of the silliness. Remerciez Dieu de celui!
- On Monday over at Omnivoracious, guest blogger China Mieville wrote a great post about the five reasons why Tolkien rocks. Among his “Somewhat Insufficiently Stressed Reasons We Should All Be Terribly Grateful To Tolkien” are Norse magic, allegory and sub-creation (creating worlds within worlds). He makes some good points. But then, he was preaching to the choir when it came to me. I already knew Tolkien rocks.
- In school, there was always that one annoying student who raised his/her hand for every question and generally enjoyed being the best. The Millions blog has figured out which books are the literary world’s version of those kids. Their annual Prizewinners post looks at books over the last 15 years to see which have won the most awards and accolades. The Known World by Edward P. Jones tops this year’s list.
- Penguin USA has a new website. Dubbed “The Publisher’s Office,” it’s a great interactive site that lets people explore books through videos, audio podcasts or short excerpts. They’re also trying to highlight books and authors that have been overlooked by the mainstream media.
- And Round One goes to the mysterious hermit. A judge issued a temporary restraining order against the author of the so-called Catcher in the Rye sequel. The order blocks it’s the books publication until the court can determine if copyright infringement has occurred. And, if a possibly precedent-setting move, the judge also ruled that Salinger’s character, Holden Caulfield, is protected by copyright. The ruling is the first time that the Second Circuit has explicitly ruled that a single character from a single literary work is copyrightable.
- Happy Birthday, Salman Rushdie!
Yee-haw, bookworms. It’s time for another one of them “book news round-up” things. (Sorry about the ridiculous cowboy reference – I’m trying to find ways to make these intros more interesting. I’ll try to do better.)
- The Library of Congress announced that President Obama (I never get tired of saying that) and Mrs. Obama will host a National Book Festival in September. The POTUS and FLOTUS will be hononary chairs of the 9th annual celebration of reading and lifelong literacy (say that ten times fast). The event will be held on the National Mall, naturally and is free to the public.
- The 2009 Man Booker International Prize went to Alice Munro, winning out over finalists including E.L. Doctorow and Joyce Carol Oates. Munro is best known for short fiction and has been writing since the 1960’s. She’s already won several Governor General’s Awards (Canada’s answer to the U.S.’s National Book Award). The Man Booker International is given out every two years to a living author for their overall achievement in literature and body of work.
- Bill Warrington’s Last Chance has become James King’s first chance. King is the winner of Amazon.com’s 2009 Breakthrough Novel Award. As winner, King will have his book published by Penguin Group and receive a very nice advance of $25,000.
- The Millions Book blog has compiled a great detailed list of books that have become movies within the last 20 or so years. Their list includes some of the more well-known book-to-film adaptations, including Atonement, Running with Scissors and Revolutionary Road. But it also highlights some little-known gems: Wristcutters: A Love Story, Possession, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
- If you’re looking for summer reading suggestions, check out New York Magazine’s pick for the best books being released this summer (through July). Most of the books are nonfiction or “realistic” fiction, but are good recommendations nonetheless.
- The zany folks over at Omnivoracious are apparently having a good time with the Star Wars: Punch Out and Play book. The SW “action figure/paper dolls” allow fans of all ages to “”decorate your home, office, or any place in need of some intergalactic inspiration and transport yourself to a galaxy far, far away.” I can’t believe some people get paid to play with Star Wars paper dolls. (And yes, I totally wish I could have that job!)
- Lastly, but never leastly, David Sedaris is coming to Boston!!!!! I’m so excited. I was planning to push some people out of the way, as I try to get to the front of the room in Porter Square Books in Cambridge, where Sedaris will be doing a reading on Thursday June 4th. But alas, the reading is sold out. I think, however, you can still show up afterwards and have him sign your copy of When You Are Engulfed in Flames. At the very least, I’m going to try.